WHH Short Fiction: “The Haunting of the Lady Shannon”

Essay: “The Haunting of the Lady Shannon”, William Hope Hodgson, 1975.

One of Hodgson’s tales about a brutal sea captain. Maybe it’s a weird story, and maybe it’s not. If the former, it’s a rare case of Hodgson combining brutal ship life with a weird menace.

Here there are three apprentice seamen. The young seamen aren’t able to do much against the brutal treatment they get, worse than they would get in any prison (certainly this seems Hodgson’s opinion of life as a merchant seamen).

They hear from one apprentice, Martin, who tells them not to bother resisting and just do as they’re told. He cites the example of Toby, a sailor previously on the ship who was hazed so badly he seems to have gone crazy before the end of the voyage and who didn’t return.

One of the apprentices refuses to obey an order and is thrashed by the second mate.

Then a series of strange events happens.

The second mate is mysteriously knifed. Captain Jeller is spooked. Strange noises are heard.

It turns out that Toby has stowed away to avenge himself on “’hard-case’ skipper and a ‘buck-o-mate’”. He doesn’t kill them.

There is some ambiguity whether Toby was a ghost or not.

At the climax, he goes overboard, but no splash is heard. On the other hand, his hideaway is discovered and he seems to have been eating.

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NSB Vol 2More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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